I always have clients who say to me why is it so easy to get married. You can go down to City Hall and boom your married. But when it comes to getting a divorce, its a difficult process where you have no idea how to navigate the legal system and it costs so much money. I get what they mean. The roots of the system goes back to the idea that we don't want people taking the institution of marriage lightly. The easier we make the divorce process, the more likely people will get a divorce without putting forth the proper effort to make their marriage work.
Personally, I doubt that the difficulty in obtaining a divorce prevents couples from getting a divorce. Many times the people who stay together, even though the marriage may not be working, is usually to prevent feeling like a failure, being content in the relationshp,protecting children or a host of many other reasons. Couples who stayed together long after the relationship has failed do not necessarily do themselves, or their children, any favors.
Unless we can find better ways to make longterm relationships work, forcing people to stay married will only be a window dressing. I am not wise enough to hold the secret to preventing the deterioration of relationships but I am convinced that helping people strengthen these bonds is truly worthy of our attention.
I also think that the success of these efforts will depend, in large part, on our ability to address these problems as early as possible. Too often couples find that at least one spouse has reached a point of no return long before any serious effort has been made to rehabilitate the relationship. When I hear these stories from my clients I often wonder if they might have had a chance to save the relationship if there has been some type of constructive early intervention.
How early should couples confront the challenges of divorce and what measures should be taken? I suppose we could all stand to learn a bit more about relationships when things are going well so we can maintain strong and healthy relationships.But since my focus has been primarily on learning how to sustain longterm relationships, I am wondering more about how we can help people when they are considering making a true commitment. It seems there is more we could be doing to help couples prior to marriage. Couples who enter marriage understanding that even the best marriages will be difficult and who prepare themselve to confront these challenges will likely have a better chance to avoid the pain uncoupling that I witness each day.
I strongly suggest any new couple to read Don't Sweat the Small Stuff in Love by Richard Carlson and Gary Chapmans Five Love Languages . These books promote healthy communication and actions between couples early in their marriage. It also focuses on truly understanding the love language of our partner so we are better able to connect and communicate with each other. Many of us don't realize that as we move from relationship to relationship or marriage to marriage, we are carrying with us the baggage from previous situations. If we don't learn how to deal with our issues now, we are simply setting ourselves up for a repeat situation with another person.
The legal barriers of getting divorced might force those to remain in relationships longer than they would like. At the end of the day, if the relationship isn't working anymore, it only takes one person to acknowledge this and want to move on.
I do think that we are capable of developing a culture that focuses on helping our friends, neighbors and family members think about marriage,(and child bearing) differently. Maybe if we can, at minimum, create a collective "speed bump" that helps people slow down and reflect on the depth of their commitment before they put that big deposit down for their wedding bash.